The feature could come later this year when iOS 13.4 is released

Premium brands are starting to offer digital key technology, and it’s certainly starting to become more common. Since we all practically live on our phones, it won’t be long before it becomes so widespread that physical keys and key fobs will only exist as a backup. Apple is set to push one step closer to that reality when iOS 13.4 is released with a new “CarKey” function for the Apple iPhone and Apple Watch.

Apple CarKey Function – What is It?

Soon You'll Be Able to Unlock and Start Your Car With Your Apple iPhone
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Apple’s new CarKey function will do precisely as you’d expect – it’ll allow you to lock, unlock, and start compatible vehicles with near field communication (NFC) technology. This is the same technology that allows you to tap your phone or debit card on card readers at store checkouts or access buildings with specially coded tags or cards.

According to 9to5Mac, Apple has already released a beta version of iOS 13.4 to developers, and Apple’s new CarKey function was apparently included. As of now, little is known about it, but the idea is that you’ll be able to hold your phone up to the NFC reader on compatible vehicles (usually the door handle) to unlock or lock the car. For starting, the NFC reader is usually on the dash or steering column, but it functions the same way. Reportedly, it works without having to use Face ID, and you’ll be able to “change express mode settings in [the] Wallet [app].”

There’s more to it than just locking, unlocking, and starting your vehicle, though. The app will allow you to share access to the vehicle with friends and family.

Expanding on this idea, it could also serve as a parental control of sorts, allowing parents to only allow young teen drivers access to their vehicle at certain times.
Soon You'll Be Able to Unlock and Start Your Car With Your Apple iPhone
- image 885052

There’s no exact word on when iOS 13.4 will launch or when CarKey will be available, but it’s apparently a direct result of Apple’s involvement in the Car Connectivity Consortium. This currently consists of a number of major auto manufacturers and is responsible for the release of Digital Key 1.0 back in 2018. Looking forward, Digital Key 2.0 – likely the spec adopted for Apple’s CarKey function – will be finalized soon and will use a new “scalable architecture” that will lead to mass adoption. It will also allow digital keys to be used even when a smart phone’s battery is low.

Even further down the road, Digital Key 3.0 will move into Bluetooth territory and, eventually, you’ll be able to access your car and start it without even removing your phone from your pocket or bag thanks to Ultra-Wideband technology. Word has it that iOS 13.4 should roll out sometime in 2020, and Apple’s new CarKey function could come along with it. The real question is what vehicles it’ll be compatible with. For now, that seems to be a large mystery. Stay tuned for updates.

Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topsped.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
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